Physical Therapy

Technical Standards

Physical therapy is a mentally, physically, and psychologically demanding profession. Throughout the DPT curriculum, students acquire the foundation of knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors that are necessary for a successful career as a physical therapist. Technical standards reflect those abilities that a physical therapist must possess for safe and effective clinical practice.  Prospective and current students must meet the following technical requirements with or without reasonable accommodation for admission, progression, and graduation in the DPT Program.

General Abilities

The student is expected to possess functional use of the senses of vision, touch, hearing, taste, and smell. All data received by the senses must be integrated, analyzed, and synthesized in a consistent and accurate manner. In addition, the individual is expected to possess the ability to perceive pain, pressure, temperature, position, equilibrium, and movement.

Observational Ability

Observation requires the functional use of vision, hearing, somatic sensations, and the use of common sense. Candidates must have visual perception which includes depth and acuity. A student must be able to observe lectures, laboratory-dissected prosections, and lecture and laboratory demonstrations. The student must be able to observe a patient accurately, observe digital and waveform readings and other graphic images to determine a patient’s condition. Candidates must be able to observe patients and be able to obtain an appropriate medical history directly from the patient or guardian. Examples in which these observational skills are required include: palpation of peripheral pulses, soft tissue changes, bony prominences and ligamentous structures; visual and tactile evaluation for areas of inflammation and visual and tactile assessment of the presence and degree of edema. A student must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand, noting nonverbal as well as verbal signals.

Communication Ability

Communication includes: speech, language, reading, writing and computer literacy. Students must be able to communicate effectively, sensitively, and convey a sense of compassion and empathy with patients to elicit information regarding mood and activities, as well as perceive non-verbal communications. Physical Therapy education presents exceptional challenges in the volume and breadth of required reading and the necessity to impart information to others. Students must be able to communicate quickly, effectively and efficiently in oral and written English with all members of the health care team. Students must be able to complete forms according to directions in a complete and timely fashion.

Interpersonal Abilities

The student is expected to have the emotional stability required to exercise sound judgment and complete assessment and intervention activities. The student is expected to establish rapport and maintain sensitive, interpersonal relationships with individuals, families, and groups from a variety of social, emotional, cultural, and intellectual backgrounds. The student is expected to have the flexibility to function effectively under stress. Concern for others, integrity, accountability, interest, and motivation are necessary personal qualities.

Motor / Psychomotor Ability

Students must possess sufficient motor function to elicit information from the patient examination, by palpation, auscultation, tapping and other evaluation maneuvers. Students must be able to execute movements required to provide general and therapeutic care, such as positioning large or immobile patients, gait training using therapeutic aids and orthotics, positioning, and performing manual mobilization techniques, performing non-surgical wound debridement, and placing electromyographic electrodes. Candidates must have the physical strength to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency treatment to patients. These skills require coordination of both gross and fine muscular movement, equilibrium, and the integrated use of touch and vision.

Intellectual – Conceptual Integrative and Quantitative Analysis Abilities

To effectively solve problems, students must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, integrate and synthesize information in a timely fashion. For example, the student must be able to synthesize knowledge and integrate the relevant aspects of a patient’s history, physical examination, and laboratory data, provide a reasoned explanation for likely therapy, recalling and retaining information in an efficient and timely manner. The ability to incorporate new information from peers, teachers, and the medical literature in formulating treatment and plans is essential. In addition, students must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand spatial relationships of structures. Students must have the ability to use computers for searching, recording, storing, retrieving, and communicating information.

Behavioral / Social Attributes and Professionalism

Students must possess the psychological ability required for the full utilization of their intellectual abilities, for the exercise of good judgment, for the prompt completion of all responsibilities inherent to diagnosis and care of patients, and for the development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. Students must be able to tolerate physically and mentally taxing workloads and function effectively under stress. They must be able to adapt to a changing environment, display flexibility and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of patients. As a component of their education, students must demonstrate ethical behavior.

Specific Requirements – Students must be able to

  1. Attend and participate in online and onsite classes for 30 or more hours per week during each academic quarter. Classes consist of a combination of lecture, discussion, laboratory, and clinical activities.
  2. Use auditory, tactile, and visual senses to receive and participate in classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction and to evaluate and treat patients.
  3. Read, write, speak, and understand English at a level consistent with successful course completion and development of positive patient-therapist relationships.
  4. Complete readings, assignments, and other learning activities during and outside of class hours.
  5. Apply critical thinking processes to their work in the classroom and the clinic.
  6. Exercise sound judgment in class and in the clinic.
  7. Participate in clinical education experiences which typically require students to be present 40 or more hours per week on a schedule that corresponds to the operating hours of the clinic.
  8. Recognize, gather, and synthesize critical pieces of information for clinical reasoning and decision-making during patient assessment activities in class or in the clinical setting without the use of an intermediary (classmate, aide, etc.).
  9. Perform physical therapy interventions in class or in the clinical setting by direct performance or by instruction and supervision of intermediaries.
  10. Sit for two to 10 hours daily, stand for two to four hours daily, and walk or travel for two hours daily during instructional activities. In clinical situations, alternately sit, stand, walk for up to 10 hours daily.
  11. Frequently lift weights less than 10 pounds and occasionally lift weights between 10 and 100 pounds.
  12. Occasionally carry up to 25 pounds while walking up to 50 feet
  13. Frequently exert 75 pounds of push/pull forces to objects up to 50 feet and occasionally exert 150 pounds of push/pull forces for this distance.
  14. Frequently twist, bend, and stoop.
  15. Occasionally squat, crawl, climb stools, reach above shoulder level, and kneel.
  16. Frequently move from place-to-place and position-to-position at a speed that permits safe handling of classmates and patients.
  17. Frequently stand and walk while providing support to a classmate simulating a disability or while supporting a patient with a disability.
  18. Occasionally climb stairs and negotiate uneven terrain.
  19. Frequently use the hands repetitively with a simple grasp and frequently use a firm grasp and manual dexterity skills.
  20. Frequently coordinate verbal and manual activities with gross motor activities.

Accommodations

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply to the program. However, it is the responsibility of the student to notify South College in writing with medical documentation from their provider, (School of Physical Therapy, South College, 400 Goody’s Lane, Knoxville, TN 37922) and verbally if there is any reason why the abilities and/or expectations described cannot be met. Students will review these technical standards during the final stage of admission to the program and attest to their ability to perform these skills.  

Students who indicate verbally and in writing (with medical documentation) that they cannot meet one or more of these requirements will be reviewed by South College to determine what, if any reasonable accommodations might be possible to facilitate successful completion of the degree requirements if admitted to the program.

Applicants who cannot complete these tasks, even with reasonable accommodation, are not eligible for admission. Any previously made offer of admission may be withdrawn if it becomes apparent that the student cannot complete essential tasks even with accommodation, or that the accommodations needed are not reasonable and would cause undue hardship to the institution, or that fulfilling the functions would create a significant risk of harm to the health or safety of others.  If you have any further questions or concerns regarding these technical standards please contact the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.